SHARON WILLIAMS, ALISHA WAGNER, TRENISHA THOMAS O/B/O MINOR CHILDREN, DERRICK WILLIAMS, JR., DANETRIA THOMAS, NA'DERRICKA THOMAS, AND KEONA GRANT O/B/O MINOR CHILD, DANDRIA GRANT O/B/O DECEASED, DERRICK WILLIAMS Respondents
LASALLE CORRECTIONAL CENTER L.L.C. D/B/A RICHWOOD CORRECTIONAL CENTER AND ITS UNKNOWN INSURER Applicants
Application for Writs from the Fourth Judicial District Court
for the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Lower Court Case No.
2016-0078 Honorable H. Stephens Winters, Judge
PROVOSTY, SADLER & DELAUNAY Counsel for Applicants By: H.
Bradford Calvit Stephen F. Butterfield.
LAW OFFICE, L.L.C. Counsel for Respondents By: S. P. Davis,
Sr. Kharmen Davis.
MOORE, LOLLEY, and GARRETT, JJ.
of an inmate who allegedly died due to lack of medical care
originally filed suit in Lincoln Parish against the private
companies managing the prison where he was incarcerated.
Following an exception of improper venue, the suit was
transferred to Ouachita Parish, where the prison was located.
The defendants then filed an exception of prescription, which
was denied by the trial court. The defendants filed a writ
application in this court, which granted it to docket. The
writ is now granted and made peremptory. We reverse the trial
court judgment, grant the exception of prescription, and
dismiss the plaintiffs' suit.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
to the facts alleged in this record, Derrick Williams, an
inmate at the Richwood Correctional Center, was found
unresponsive at that facility on January 23, 2014, and
pronounced dead upon his transfer to University Health Conway
January 23, 2015,  the plaintiffs - Williams' mother and
children - filed a petition for damages in Lincoln Parish
against the LaSalle Correctional Center, LLC
("LaSalle"), d/b/a Richwood Correctional Center,
and its unknown insurer. Their petition asserted that LaSalle
was a foreign corporation doing business in Ruston, whose
agent for service of process was located in Ruston, which is
in Lincoln Parish. The plaintiffs alleged that Williams had
complained of chest discomfort, headaches, and pain for about
one month before his death, but the defendants failed to
provide him with timely and adequate medical care and
treatment. The suit was served on the defendants' agent
for service of process in Lincoln Parish on January 29, 2015.
On June 22, 2015, the plaintiffs filed an amended petition in
which they deleted LaSalle as a defendant, instead naming
Richwood Correctional Center, LLC ("Richwood"), as
the defendant and alleging the same address and agent for
service of process as in the original petition.
2015, LaSalle and Richwood filed an exception of venue,
challenging the filing of the suit in Lincoln Parish. They
asserted that, under La. R.S. 15:1184(F), the mandatory venue
provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act
("PLRA"), exclusive venue for the suit was in
Ouachita Parish, where Richwood Correctional Facility was
located and where all alleged torts occurred. They requested
that the suit be dismissed without prejudice or,
alternatively, transferred to Ouachita Parish for further
opposition to the venue exception, the plaintiffs made the
Plaintiffs aver that the deceased, Derrick Williams, was an
inmate in Richland Correctional Center on January 23, 2014 at
the time of his death. Plaintiffs further aver that Richland
Correctional Center is located in Monroe, Louisiana.
[Plaintiffs concede] that according to LRS 15:1184, proper
venue would be proper in Ouachita Parish where the Richland
Correctional Center is located. Plaintiffs further aver that
if the court decides that the venue in which the
[plaintiffs'] action was filed is in fact improper, the
plaintiffs [aver] that their claim should
not be dismissed, but in fact transferred to the
venue that would be proper in the interest of justice.
(Emphasis theirs.) . . .
plaintiffs aver that [they] did not knowingly file suit in
the wrong venue. The plaintiffs further aver that they filed
suit based upon the general rules of venue that pertain to
all delictual causes of action. The plaintiffs further aver
that this cause of action arises as a result of the death of
Derrick Williams, and was not an action brought by him due to
any injury that was sustained prior to January 23, 2014.
Therefore, [plaintiffs aver] that their cause of action
should not be dismissed, but in fact transferred to the venue
that would be proper in this matter.
venue exception was taken up at a hearing on October 9, 2015.
Following a status conference, the entire record was
introduced into evidence. Finding that each side had done an
excellent job presenting its position in writing, the trial
court dispensed with oral argument by agreement with the
parties. The trial court then granted the venue exception and
ordered that, in the interest of justice, the case be
transferred to Ouachita Parish. The judgment ordering the
transfer was signed on November 16, 2015.
the suit's transfer to Ouachita Parish, Richwood filed
answers to both the petition and the amended petition in
which it generally denied liability. It further alleged that
Williams' death was caused by his "unknown medical
condition, " hypertensive cardiovascular disease, which
was an "Act of God, " for which it was not
April 1, 2016, Richwood and LaSalle filed a peremptory
exception of prescription. They contended that the
prescriptive period was not interrupted and the
plaintiffs' claims were prescribed on their face because
(1) the plaintiffs filed suit in Lincoln Parish, an improper
venue, instead of Ouachita Parish, the exclusive venue under
La. R.S. 15:1184; and (2) they failed to serve any defendant
with process before the one-year prescriptive period expired,
which was fatal to their claims under La. C.C. art. 3462. The
plaintiffs filed an opposition to the exception in which they
contended that the courts in Lincoln Parish and Ouachita
Parish had concurrent jurisdiction and venue under La. C.C.P.
art. 42 and La. R.S. 15:1184(F). As a result, they maintained
that the timely filing of their suit in Lincoln Parish
hearing on July 27, 2016, the trial court denied the
exception. It interpreted the second sentence of La.
R.S. 15:1184 to mean that other venues could be proper.
Consequently, it found that venue was also proper in Lincoln
Parish under La. C.C.P. art. 42. Judgment was signed August
8, 2016. Costs were assessed against the defendants.
and LaSalle filed an application for a supervisory writ in
this court, which was granted to docket.
PLRA was enacted by Acts 1997, No. 731, § 1, and became
effective on July 9, 1997. The purpose of enacting the PLRA
was to provide for civil actions with respect to prison
conditions. The definition provision of the PLRA, La. R.S.
15:1181, shows that the legislative intent was to provide for
civil actions with respect to prison conditions or effects of
officials' actions on prisoners' lives, as opposed to
matters concerning incarceration vel non. McCoy
v. State ex rel. Jones, 39, 323 (La.App. 2 Cir.
2/17/05), 901 So.2d 1109, writ denied, 2005-0960
(La. 2/3/06), 922 So.2d 1161; Frederick v. Ieyoub,
1999-0616 (La.App. 1 Cir. 5/12/00), 762 So.2d 144, writ
denied, 2000-1811 (La. 4/12/01), 789 So.2d 581. La. R.S.
15:1181 provides the following relevant definitions:
(2) "Civil action with respect to prison
conditions" or "prisoner suit" means any civil
proceeding with respect to the conditions of confinement or
the effects of actions by government officials on the lives
of persons confined in prison, but does not include post
conviction relief or habeas corpus proceedings challenging
the fact or duration of confinement in prison. * * *
(5) "Prison" means any state or local jail, prison,
or other correctional facility that incarcerates or detains
juveniles or adults accused of, convicted of, sentenced for,
or adjudicated ...